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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2651

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) who for so long and so strongly has advocated an export tax on meat is one of those who fails to recognise the role of this Parliament. The only reason that we objected to 0.6c being added to the meat tax for the purposes of a meat inspection service was that this Parliament was not even given the courtesy, in the second reading speech presented to it, of an explanation that the meat tax was for the purpose of tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. There was no reference to it in the Minister's second reading speech. If the honourable member for Eden-Monaro cares to canvass that debate he will find that it was that fact rather than any statistics which were used that was the basis of opposition to the measure. In addition there were some doubts cast on the figures. If the honourable member for Eden-Monaro was quite content that no excess money would be raised for this purpose he should have been only too prepared to accept the general nature of the other amendment which we moved to ensure that any surplus funds would be used for the purposes that the Government intended, namely, the purpose referred to in the second reading speech which was for a meat inspection service.

If the Government feels that adequate money can be raised by the 0.6c export tax it should be prepared to come before the Parliament and tell it what it will do with the money. It should be prepared to say that the money will be used for tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. Let me emphasise that no courtesy was paid to this Parliament. We were not told for what purpose the money was to be spent. If we are now told that that is the reason then no doubt the honourable member for Eden-Monaro will be quite prepared to support the same sort of restraints on expenditure for that purpose, and that is the establishment of a trust fund to ensure that all the money that is surplus is reemployed for the same purpose. It might be interesting to refer the honourable member to division 918 of the appropriations for the Department of Primary Industry which concerns payments to or for the States. Item 03 deals with the eradication of bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis. The appropriation this year for that item is fortunately, as I read the figures, approximately $4.9m for 1973-74. The expenditure last year was just short of $4m, a figure which we commend and believe is necessary, and which we believe is the minimum amount needed to meet the requirements of the campaign for the eradication of one of the principal beef diseases affecting the future of our beef industry.

There is a lot I could say about the speech of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. I see no parallel between the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Commission that was constituted the other day, the industries non-assistance commission. I see the industries non-assistance commission as a device to avoid the responsibilltie of Government but I do not intend to canvass it again tonight. However, I wish to refer to several items in the appropriations for the Department of Primary Industry in the brief time that is allowed to me. I am glad to see that there is still provided within the estimates a reasonable amount for agricultural extension. I think this is an area which might well have been augmented. I believe tremendous problems will be facing the agricultural field in the future. The deplorable elimination of concessions available to the rural community, the antirural loading of this Government, the failure of men like the honourable member for Eden-Monaro to recognise the swings of price and swings of seasons and the recommendation of an export tax are all part of the

Government's condemnation of the prospects of the future. The only way in which farmers and people involved in the agricultural sector will be able to overcome this is by ensuring that agricultural extension is available to the maximum degree. This is an area of tremendous necessity.

Alternate land use is one field on which I would like to see more money spent. I know that within the specific commodity research allocations that are available there is difficulty in ensuring that money is available for other forms of utilising our land resources. Unless we can do this, I do not see how in the future we are going to be able to provide for the real exigencies which the Labor Government is thrusting on the rural community. No doubt there is a necessity for us to reassess constantly the forms of assistance to the rural sector. Indeed it was this Opposition when in Government which initiated that review. But instead of proceeding on the basis of reasonable concern for the future of agriculture, this Government has been prepared to deny all rational forms of assistance, and by pulling the skids out from under agriculture it has been prepared to thrust all those who are involved in the rural sector into a position of considerable risk for the future. The Government's lack of concern is really matched only by the measure of its verbosity in suggesting that there is no such lack of concern.

It is necessary also that we look at the war service land settlement scheme. I, during my term as Minister for Primary Industry, was endeavouring to undertake a major reassessment of all war service land settlement schemes in Australia. I regard one of the tragedies of agriculture in post-war Australia as the change in basic minimum living area. There are many fellows who have been settled, with the best of motivations, on blocks which are too small and with an inadequate capacity to produce sufficient to enable the settlers to raise their families and to live at a normal level of sustenance.

The amount of money allocated in these estimates, which is somewhat less than it was last year, does not really enable a reassessment of the whole war service land settlement scheme in the way that is necessary. I do suggest that in this area the Government needs to take a very close look at the whole of past practices and procedures. There is a real difficulty because of the difference between principal States and mendicant States and there is a difficulty because of the nature of some of the war service land settlement schemes themselves. But if this country is to be able to overcome these problems, it is necessary not that we reduce the amount of money available but that we closely reassess the degree to which those who are war service land settlers are able to sustain themselves in the future, given the vagaries of agriculture.

One other field I should mention is wool marketing assistance. There is a most significant- reduction in the amount of money made available, a reflection in part of the increased levy on wool growers and also the curtailment, I believe, of the forward program that the previous Government introduced for the International Wool Secretariat. I see it as most necessary that we do not have a one-year extension of wool marketing and wool promotion but that it be on a continuing basis. Wool marketing and wool promotion are more vital today than they have ever been. Anyone who looks at the wool industry and believes that there is a certain future needs to know a little bit more about the industry. One can be confident that the quality of fibre is as high today as it has ever been. But one cannot be confident, with the escalation of costs, that those involved in the industry will be able to continue to market their product competitively against synthetic fibres and other alternative means of producing textiles.

In terms of the apple and pear and canning fruit industries, again a measure of funds is provided to try to assist these sorely affected industries. It is difficult to know the best way in which one can face the future in these industries. I understand that this year floods in the Goulburn Valley have meant a significant reduction in the peach acreage. A good many trees have been destroyed as a result of water inundation. Nonetheless, last year we introduced a scheme of tree pull. This, I think, was only a first step. This industry needs a great deal in order to overcome the problems that face it in the future. I would see that the Government's involvement, in particular in the canned fruit industry, must become necessarily greater if we are to overcome the marketing complexities that face the industry. I am disappointed that, in the estimates, no greater sum is made available in order to overcome he problems of the fruit industry.

Particularly in Tasmania, the home State of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator

Wriedt), the future for the apple industry must be clouded in doubt. If there is to be any solution to these problems, it is necessary that money be provided in order to enable Tasmanian growers to overcome their marketing problems, something of their variety problems and to ensure that the people who are producers living at little more than the minimal level are given a future, a promise that is not there under the present Government. Indeed, my criticism of these appropriations lies principally in the lack of concern that the Australian Labor Party has demonstrated for the very real needs of those throughout the whole of the rural community.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! The honourable gentleman's time has expired. It being 15 minutes past 1 O'clock and in accordance with the order of the House of 1 March, I shall report progress.

Progress reported.

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